Colorado List: Climbing My First Multipitch in Clear Creek Canyon

Long before the #ColoradoList adventure project was born, I had a dream: I wanted to climb my first multi-pitch route. For my non-climber readers, Santiam Alpine Club describes it as: “A technical climb that is longer than a single rope length, thus requiring multiple anchors and belay stations.” Basically, I usually climb routes that are between 40 and 90 feet tall.

Playing Hooky is a 400′ tall, four pitch route in Clear Creek Canyon.

After months of not climbing at all, I decided that it would be a fantastic idea to go from couch-to-crag on my first multi-pitch climb ever. Because, why not? It was the first time I actually met the wonderful Jason Gebauer in person, and there’s no better way to really solidify a friendship than to trust someone to belay you up four hundred feet of granite while teaching you knots at hanging anchor stations.The view from the second anchor station on Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.

I was definitely a little bit nervous as I pulled on my harness and laced up my shoes, but Playing Hooky is the perfect route for a climber looking to experience their first multi-pitch. Playing Hooky has an overall grade of 5.8 – but the pitch breakdown is 5.9 on pitch one, 5.8 on pitch two, 5.7 on pitch three, and 5.8 on the final pitch. Most climbers link the last two pitches, which is what Jason and I did.

The first pitch is undoubtedly the most difficult. There are two defined cruxes on Playing Hooky, one of which is just a few dozen feet off the deck. It was my only “fall” on the route, as I had to take to totally redo my ugly footwork while trying to reach the next hold. Surprisingly, in a situation where I would usually have started to illogically panic and cry, I took on a new perspective: I started to problem solve. I employed way more hand-foot matches than are necessary on a 5.8, but managed to work my way through every tricky section I hit.

Climbing the four pitch Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.

The second half of Playing Hooky mellows out until you hit the final exposed section and have to top out. If I wasn’t the second (meaning I was on a top-rope), I totally could have lost my head in that moment – but the intimidating finale led to the most victorious view from the top. It had drizzled on us a bit during the last two pitches, and a mean wind started blowing as I approached the final set of anchors.

After clipping my daisy chain into the anchor, my climbing blinders disappeared and I was greeted with an incredible view of Clear Creek Canyon. The cars below in the parking area looked like ants, and I couldn’t even see the bottom of the wall I had just climbed. It was a proud and empowering moment, and I am so grateful to Jason for showing me the ropes (couldn’t resist the pun).
The view from the top of Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.Katie Boué at the top of Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.Heading down from Playing Hooky in Clear Creek Canyon.

After rappelling down the route, obsessively checking ourselves for ticks, and munching on a few warm strawberries, Jason and I headed up to Lookout Mountain for a little photo-shoot he wanted to do for Mile High Clothing. We set up a slack-line between two trees, and I did my best to maintain my balance without making my signature hideous try-hard faces – it was no easy task, y’all.

My toes crushed a lot of pinecones while falling off the slack-line, but I think Jason got some killers shots – I can’t wait to see the final product! Here’s a quick shot he grabbed of me on my iPhone:

Jason Gebauer's quick shot of me slack-lining while rockin' Mile High Clothing.I am proud to say that the first tick is officially accomplished on my Colorado List adventure bucket list! Thank you Jason Gebauer for entertaining my demands for photos (any one you see of me was taken by him!), letting me steal your fruit, and being such a great climbing partner!  I’m already debating which #ColoradoList excursion I should go for next – I’m thinking a big hike this weekend. Stay tuned for more as my Colorado List project continues to grow.

What’s your biggest goal outdoors?
What are you doing to move towards accomplishing it?

Trip Report: Southeastern Climbers Coalition Trail Day and Climbing at Boat Rock

During the planning process of the Simply Adventure trip, Niko and I felt strongly inclined to explore the ways we could make our adventure more than just a climber “vacation” – we wanted to give back to the climbing community. After meeting the two fellas of the Access Fund’s Jeep Conservation Team at Red River Gorge last spring, we realized the most obvious way we could contribute: trail days.

While the Simply Adventure journey will take us across nearly every state in the country, our hearts and souls will forever remain in the southeast – so we wanted to kick off our year of trail days with our local climbing organization, the Southeastern Climbers Coalition. This weekend, we loaded up the van (for its first climbing trip ever!), and headed out to the Atlanta area for a trail day at Boat Rock.

After a night spent sleeping in a Walmart parking lot, we arrived to an empty gravel lot at the base of the Boat Rock crag. Within minutes, the entire lot was filled, and cars overflowed along the streets beside it. I had envisioned a dozen or so dirtbags lined up with shovels, but the scene I was greeted with was far more impressive: Upwards of 30 kids showed up to do their part in preserving Boat Rock.

It was incredibly humbling to witness the community spirit that was demonstrated during the Boat Rock trail day. Young people lined up with buckets to shuttle an enormous pile of mulch up to the boulders, and they eagerly tromped through the woods filling up garbage bags with half-decomposed trash – including two rusty tires, a broken mirror, and heaps of discarded metal.

What had been planned as a lengthy trail day turned into an affair that only lasted a few hours – the dedicated crew of trail day goers managed to accomplish hours’ worth of work in half the time. It’s absolutely amazing what a group of hard-working climbers can accomplish when we rally together and focus on cleaning up our crag.

After running out of mulch to haul into the boulder field, I joined Urban Core Climbing’s Emily Taylor, and her impossibly adorable daughter Milo, for an impromptu tour of the crag – and we were hard-pressed to find even a single piece of litter leftover. With nothing left to pick up, I enjoyed meandering through the woods and snapping way too many photos of adorable little Milo. 

The crew gathered for a gear toss, with swag provided by event sponsors like Access Fund and REI, then we settled down for lunch before the group dispersed into the crag for some much-earned climbing.

Niko and I gave a few folks a little tour of our van, then threw our new Stonelick pads on our back and trekked towards the climbs with a fellow trail day participant, Jordan, who would become our guide for the day.

Let me tell you, Boat Rock is easily one of the most humbling crags I have ever climbed at.

Suddenly, V3s feel like V5s, arêtes lose their edge, and it’s nearly impossible to find a top-out that includes actual holds. And foot holds? What foot holds? Boat Rock don’t need no foot holds. Climbing at Boat Rock is both frustrating and empowering. You don’t ‘get’ sends; you earn them.

Our first stop was the Spiderman boulder, one of the ultra classic climbs at Boat Rock. This hunk of rock also happens to be one of the few with features and deep holds – so don’t let it fool you. After sending every line on the stand-alone boulder, we headed for Paint Can, a V5 climb that flows like butter until you hit the barren, bulging top. I watched a few locals run through the problem, and was quickly discouraged when I attempted to pull myself up on the “crimpers” the fellas had tugged on – there was literally nothing up there.

I quickly abandoned any attempts at sending problems at my limit, and refocused my efforts on finding sweet problems that suited my style. This led me to discover my new favorite style of climbing: cracks. Jordan suggested that I hop on a sweet V3 finger crack called “Lost Digits,” and after a frustrated series of attempts, I nailed the most bomber foot jam of all time – and was instantly hooked.

We immediately hiked over to another easier climb called “Blues Crack,” which I may or may not have climbed three times in a row. There’s just something about the methodical nature of climbing a crack, and that satisfying moment when you’ve locked your fingers into a solid section, or jammed your toes perfectly into the wedge of rock. It’s an entirely unique style of climbing; and I’m obsessed. 

Have I mentioned yet how much I love climbing cracks?

Next to Blues Crack sat a funky problem aptly named “Tough Guy.” It was one of Jordan’s projects, so we all got stoked on working out the beta. It’s rated at a V3, but I’d easily give the top-out at least a V4. As with most climbs at Boat Rock, the key is to trust non-existent foot holds, and make hand holds out of nothing. Jordan and Niko made it look easy, while I ended up spending no less than five minutes on the top-out – but it was a send, folks.

We ended the day at Yellow Arete, a towering boulder problem that offers inviting features until you get to the committing top-out. Naturally, Niko crushed it effortlessly, although even he admits that the finish was bleak. It was one of those climbs that’s tall enough to force you to finish the problem, purely because you really, really don’t want to come back down.

Jordan hopped on Yellow Arete next, projected it until his fingers were ready to shred, and then our little trio hiked back to the parking area to conclude our day.

As Niko and I fueled up for the drive home with instant mashed potatoes and avocado, we reflected on the impact of our first trail day. Yes, we had pitched in to help ensure that Boat Rock access is preserved for climbers – but far more importantly, our eyes were opened to the vital future of the climbing community. The kids from Urban Core and Adrenaline Climbing are setting the stage for the next generation of climbers. These young people aren’t just getting into the sport of climbing; they’re fully embracing the lifestyle and responsibilities that accompany the true meaning of being a climber.

I think we all could learn a thing or two from the kids who came out to the Boat Rock trail day – and I hope the Simply Adventure journey can continue to spread the hopefulness and genuine appreciation demonstrated out at that Georgia crag. I had a blast with everyone who came out, and will be posting the complete set of photo on the Simply Adventure Facebook page – so stay tuned!

Did you hear? I’m the new voice of the Southeastern Climbers Coalition’s revived Twitter account! I don’t think it’s rocket science to calculate that Niko is much more helpful during trail days than I am (c’mon, he could carry 10x more mulch up a cliff than I can), so it is truly meaningful to me to be able to use my social media skills to help the SCC. Give @SEClimbers a follow, and send us a Tweet!

Want to help the Simply Adventure team successfully spend a year traveling around the country to spread the good tidings of land conservation, and work with local climbing communities to preserve the future of our crags? 

Donate to the Simply Adventure fundraiser – and help equip us with the tools we need to make our mission a reality. We’re running out of time, and still have over $4000 to raise within the next two weeks. 

The first climbing video for Simply Adventure is now LIVE (and on DeadPointMag.com)!

Every once in a while, all that hard work and tedious to-dos and mindless training comes to a head, and leaves you with something you can actually put your finger on. After two years of projecting Super Mario, two trips to finally get the footage for a video (I may or may not have lost our tripod mount in the middle of a desert), and too many days spent waiting for construction noise or neighbor’s air conditioning units to shut up so we could film some audio – we finally did it.

Simply Adventure’s first climbing video is now live –
and on Dead Point Magazine’s website.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dESpz6IHJ3o]

The purpose of this film was to capture one of my all-time favorite bouldering problems in the southeast, possibly even the entire country: Super Mario. The ironic boulder served as the perfect example of why we feel so strongly about promoting conservation and using the Simply Adventure trip as a platform for raising awareness about the importance of preserving access and getting involved with your local climbing communities. Because, really, some people would dismiss that legendary hunk of sandstone as just a pile of rocks on the side of Montlake Golf Course – and that just ain’t okay in our book.

As much as I’d love to credit my pretty face for this inaugural video (HA!), Niko truly deserves all the praise for this little film. He is officially the video man for Simply Adventure, and I am incredibly proud of all his hard work on the Super Mario video. This is our first video, ever, so while Niko is quick to harp on any imperfections, I’d say he did a damn good job. And to think, it’ll only get better from here! 

Wait, but really, I’m on DPMclimbing.com! I feel so cool – even though I look slightly puff-faced, and do way too much slapping around on the top-out of Super Mario. Still, I’m up there. It’s real. It’s all happening, man!

What did you think of the video?
Any questions, feedback, comments, and critiques are welcome!
We’re always learning, and looking to improve.

30 Days to Triple Crown at Hound Ears – My 4-week Climbing Challenge

Last week, my adventure soul-sister Gina Bégin announced the beginning of her first 90-day challenge in a series of training hauls designed to prepare her for an epic race in Patagonia. Almost immediately, the outdoor community erupted with declarations of all sorts of personal challenges – and naturally, I hopped on board too.

With an upcoming full year of traveling to climb all over the country, I reckoned I ought to really start overhauling my training to elevate my climbing to the next level before the journey begins in late January. I knew I wanted to push my limits, but I didn’t have a solid direction.

This morning, in a perfectly timed twist of fate, everything came together – thanks to Dead Point Mag’s “Fit For Fall in 4 Weeks” article (and Aiguille Rock Climbing for posting it on their Pinterest boards).

I woke up a bit early today, and began my morning social media scouring, which quickly led me to the article. Maybe it was the coffee coursing through my body, or the general hype on the idea of finding a formal plan for my climbing, but the moment I read the article, I was fully committed.

Combining both fitness training and a not-so-strict (but still slightly demanding) diet, this four week climbing regimen targets four elements that can be effectively improved within a single month: “strength to weight ratio, hand and forearm muscular efficiency, and mobility.” Along with hangboard exercises, the plan calls for a lot of yoga, aerobics, rice bucket workouts, and fitness circuits.

Bring it on.

As I mapped out the 30 days of dedication and perseverance, I noticed that my 4-week plan is perfectly aligned with one of the best events of the season: the Triple Crown bouldering competition at Hound Ears in Boone, North Carolina.

Photo by Andrew Kornylak.

This legendary crag has access so limited that the only day of the year you can climb there is during the Triple Crown event. Niko and I had made it a goal to attend a few days ago, and now with the 4-week challenge ending the Thursday before the competition, it seemed like destiny. I’m registering us both today – it’s going to be my first outdoor climbing competition, so I’m both very nervous, and very stoked.

The best part? Two months ago, I got a mysterious fortune cookie. It read:

Remember three months from this date. Good things are in store for you.”

As luck would have it, that date happens to be October 6th – the first day of the Hound Ears competition. Coincidence? I think not.

So, today marks the first day of my climbing challenge. What’s in store for me this week? Well, first comes the dietary aspect. During the first week, all I have to remember to do is drink a gallon of water every day. For those of us who live by Nalgene, that means four full Nalgenes a day. Easy, right?

Here’s this week’s training schedule:

Day 1: Aerobic training, and the first hangboard workout, including a 9-minute rice bucket session. For the aerobic portion, I’ll be riding my bike to and from the rock gym.
Day 2: Full body workout circuit, including my not-so-favorite exercise, push-ups.
Day 3: Yoga and the second hangboard/rice bucket progression. My lovely friend Katie is a yoga instructor, and she offered to teach me a few things to get my personal yoga sessions tuned-in.
Day 4: Another total body workout circuit.
Day 5: Aerobics. I might (read: MIGHT) try running. It will probably be more of a speed-walking/jogging, but I’m going to try.
Day 6: A second day of yoga, and the third hangboard/rice bucket circuit.
Day 7: Another aerobic day.

Doesn’t seem too hard, right? One of the reasons I felt drawn to this particular training schedule is that it doesn’t seem so outrageous. Yes, it’s going to kick my ass – but it doesn’t seem undoable.

Stay tuned as I power through this first week, and prepare for the second week of this climbing challenge.

PS: I’m also cutting out soda. Perhaps the hardest challenge of all. Seriously, I’m dying already. There has been a small bottle of Sprite sitting in the fridge for a week, and I’m about to assault it.

Do you have a personal challenge you’d like to begin?
Put it out there, let me know, and let’s keep each other inspired to stick to our goals! 

How I broke through my biggest climbing plateau

One of the most frustrating things about advancing as a climber is the inevitable plateau one reaches between grades. As a novice, most hit their first big challenge when advancing beyond V3, and after that, you’ll pretty much find yourself struggling between every other grade – except perhaps the V5-V6 transition (I hope).

I sent my first V4 nearly two years ago; The Mane Event at Stone Fort in Tennessee. It was a big milestone for me, but I had no idea that it would take me so long to beat my next big challenge.

This weekend, I finally broke the plateau.

Over the past few weeks at Tally Rock Gym, I’ve noticed a significant advancement in my indoor sends – but nothing counts until you make it happen outside. I started sending my V5 bouldering projects at the gym, and was determined to solidify it with a big outdoor send during my final summer trip out to Tennessee and Georgia.

My first V5 send was Steam Roller, a burly little roof problem that comes over a lip to a sloped top-out. At first, I couldn’t get past the first moves where I had to lift my toosh off a pesky boulder beneath the climb to pull out over the lip – but a little crafty footwork helped me out with a high heel hook that kept me from smacking on the slab below. Personally, the biggest accomplishment on the send was sticking the finishing moves. Slopers are NOT my thing, and yet with Niko’s encouragement I conquered the holds and achieved my first outdoor V5.

The second big moment for me came when I sent Sunnie Rose on the second go. Admittedly, this route feels pretty damn soft for its grade – but considering that it wasn’t downgraded in the guidebook like The Wave (which used to be a V6 and is now a V5); I’ll take it. The route was suggested to me multiple times by both Tally Rock Gym climbers and the fellas at The Crash Pad hostel in Chattanooga – so I figured it was worth the attempt.

When you first take a gander at this boulder, it doesn’t look like a cake walk. The holds are unassuming from afar, but once you get on the sweet sandstone, everything falls into place. My send of Sunnie Rose was only successful because I was full of one of the most important factors in climbing: confidence.

So, how can you propel yourself to the
next level in climbing like I did?

[Read more…]

I’m adventuring north to Georgia and Tennessee for some climbing and Chattanooga lovin’

If you know me, you know one thing: I don’t like to stay put for too long. After two weeks of recovering from my adventures in (and around) Salt Lake City, I’m once again packing my bags –

I’m off on a climbing trip to Rocktown and Stone Fort!

Niko and I visited Stone Fort (more lovingly known as Little Rock City) earlier this summer, and nearly melted in the swelter while I sent my ultimate project, Super Mario. It’s still August, but the temperatures have leveled off considerably, and I’m looking forward to highs in the mid-80s, and a gorgeous low of 61°. Top off that forecast with a mere 0-10% chance of rain, and you’ve got my ideal summer climbing conditions.

We’re also spending a day climbing at Rocktown, one of Georgia’s best crags – but honestly, what I’m most excited for this trip is finally getting the chance to stay at The Crash Pad in Chattanooga. This hostel caught my attention when it was a mere concept and a patch of neglected land; it now proudly stands as one of the most innovative and inviting hubs for adventurers visiting Tennessee. I won second place in their Ultimate Adventure contest a few months ago, and after multiple failed attempts at booking my two free nights (seriously, these folks are killin’ it; they’re always booked solid), I finally snagged myself a private room! It’s going to be way snazzy, and certainly beats the hell out of camping in a Walmart parking lot.

Stay tuned for lots of updates on my experience at The Crash Pad!

Naturally, I’ve got my eye on a few boulder problems at these two classic crags. I’m keen on a repeat of Super Mario, but really want to send my first V5. At Stone Fort, I’m hoping to crush the juggy underclings and allegedly smooth mantle on Steam Roller – and if I have enough steam left in me, I might hop on a sweet roof problem called Bonesaw. My main project at Rocktown will be a V5 named Police Brutality, but I might also give Double Trouble a chance. Both Rocktown routes have been calling my attention since my first trip out there years agos, and now I’m finally strong enough to actually give ‘em a go.

We’ll see how it goes!

While I’m out romping around in the woods, you ought to keep yourself busy by entering my giveaway for a Rig 500 hydration pack system from GeigerRig! Check out the contest – all you have to do is submit your best summer adventure photo for a chance to win! (Giveaway ends August 31st.)

Psssst... You should also keep your eye out for some really exciting announcements from me and Niko’s yearlong 2013 Simply Adventure trip – we’ve got some awesome sponsors we’re partnering with, and we can’t wait to introduce ‘em! 

It’s finally here – the Rocktown Guidebook has been released!

Back in December, I announced exciting plans that would finally create a guidebook for the Georgia crag called Rocktown. Until the fruition of this guidebook, climbers relied on “topos” that lacked a comprehensive understanding of the entire area. I remember toting around a few sheets of printed climbing guidance in my backpack, and always ending up missing a few pages or spilling water all over the darn thing. Basically, it wasn’t really working. So the news of a proposed guidebook brought excitement to the entire southeastern climbing community.

Until we heard the crickets.

Months passed, and so did the alleged release date of the book. It was promised to be in print by March, and yet as April passed, we began to lose hope. I had contacted the publisher in hopes of snagging a few copies to give away during the Save the South bouldering compeition I organized at the end of March, and his “we’ve hit a few snags” e-mail was the last I heard about the guidebook.

But here is it, folks – the Rocktown Guidebook has been released!

[Read more…]

It’s climb time! – Enter to win climbing swag and a $25 rock gym gift certificate

Climbing is far more than just a sweaty, chalky, finger-shredding sport – it’s a lifestyle. And anyone who loves climbing can attest that this sweltering segment of summertime isn’t exactly the prime season for dedicating yourself to the sport. Crags are rampant with biting insects and melt-your-face-off heat, rock gyms become ghost towns as folks flee towards air conditioned pursuits, and all to often, climbers give-up on their training efforts in favor of lazy afternoons spent curled up on the couch with the latest videos from DeadPoint Mag.

So let’s get the climbing hype happenin’ during this scorching month of July
with The Morning Fresh’s first giveaway!

[Read more…]

Finally sending my longest climbing pursuit, Super Mario, on the side of a golf course in Tennessee

Anyone can have confidence in the thought of completing a send, but confidence is moot without action. After a seven-hour drive up to Soddy-Daisy, Tennessee, I wistfully fell asleep on my new Stonelick crashpad in the hatchback of my car at a Wal-Mart parking lot, trembling with shaky confidence towards the next day’s pursuit.

Niko and I got a fairly early start out to the Montlake Golf Course that houses the epic climbing spot called Stone Fort, and eagerly trekked out to the boulder field with an arsenal of crash pads. We eyed Art of the Vogi, warmed up on a few rounds of easy routes like Needless Things (V0-) and Fire Crack Flake (V1). Once our muscles had stretched out, we began our day of chasing climbs. 

We immediately trekked out towards the Super Mario boulder, where we met up with three rapscallions from Kentucky who took a liking to the strings of incoherent obscenities I bursted with every time I popped off the boulder. By the end of our time climbing together, we had all collected a few new curse combinations – but I still hadn’t sent Super Mario.

My morning session boosted my esteem over my efforts; I was able to stick a move I had never made it to before. Here’s how it goes: I had my left hand tightly perched on a deep, sharp crimp, with my right hand fulled extended out in a high undercling, while my leg was locked in a great knee-bar. The next move required me to ditch the security of the knee-bar, and balance my legs as far over on the right as possible. I then locked off with my right hand, and pulled on the undercling as I reached up above with my left hand to a solid pocket. 

And then I fell.

Again. My most familiar feeling on that boulder is the movement of falling off it. I’ve slipped, snapped, and popped off that route’s holds more times than I’d like to admit over the last two years.

*Note: This is an older photo; don’t worry, I’m not crazy enough to be wearing a
hoodie and sweatpants at Stone Fort in the middle of June.

Once the southeastern swelter began to bear down with relentless humidity, Niko and I retreated for a lunch break. We drove over to the Pep Boys crag parking lot, threw down our crash pads to make a little napping spot, cooked up some spaghetti, and prepared for our evening session.

As we hiked back out to Stone Fort, I decided I wasn’t going to hop on my project again until the next day – I figured I ought to give my tender fingertips a chance to heal before torturing them again. Instead, I gallivanted around the crag, following Niko to his own projects. I lounged on boulders, played with insects, and cheered Niko on as he sent ‘A Face in the Crowd.

Satisfied with his climb for the day, Niko urged me to hop on something else before we called it a day – so I decided to give Super Mario a quick burn.

Stone Fort was eerily deserted that day; Niko and I didn’t see a single climber during our evening session, which is unheard of at this popular climbing destination. It’s even more rare to have the Super Mario boulder all to yourself, as this rock tends to draw big crowds of boulderers projecting the many climbs that sit on it. Pleased with the solitude, I took my time working the route, and focused on cleaning up my messy footwork.

There were three unsuccessful attempts before I decided to just stop thinking about what I was doing. Without any intent of sending it on that particular burn, I shook out my arms, hoisted myself off the start holds onto the first big ledge, and cruised through the first series of moves.

When the knee-bar crux section approached, my technique became a little shaky. Feeling a slight instability, I jammed my knee into the space before the proper knee-bar, and ended up incorporating two into my beta. I swung out to the undercling, stuck it, and danced my feet over to the rightmost portion of the boulder. With a heavy burst of breath, I reached my left hand up to the pocket – and it stuck. 

From there, the route was all but sent. I brought my left hand up into a bowling-ball shaped series of solid pockets, shifted over to a large jug, and hoisted myself towards the sloped top-out area. Admittedly, my top-out was probably one of the most hideous sends that boulder has ever witnessed. Exhausted from my unexpected success, it was a struggle to beach myself up onto the rounded boulder – but I made it happen.

After two years of sporadic projecting, countless shredded finger tips, an outrageously bruised knee, two knee-bars where there should only be one, and the most ridiculous top-out of all time, I have finally completed my ultimate climbing project.

It wasn’t about the grade, it wasn’t the hardest climb I’ve ever attempted, and it wasn’t a glorious moment surrounded by cheering fans and snapping cameras. It was an intimate moment, shared only with Niko, with nary a single photo or video to bare evidence of my conquest – and it was the best feeling I’ve ever had while climbing, because it was mine

We retreated to Chester Frost Campground feeling pleased, sweaty, and famished. Niko whipped up a delicious campside dinner of quinoa, roasted tomatoes, black beans, and avocado – and then we promptly crashed in our tent. We woke up the next morning feeling more sore than we’d ever imagined, but it was one of the best mornings I’ve had in a while.

My epic send was celebrated with a trip to one of my favorite places in Tennessee – the Chattanooga Market, which was celebrating their annual Blueberry Festival on this particular day. One of the best farmer’s markets I’ve ever been to, this venue is loaded with produce delights like impossibly long green beans, crispy sunflower sprouts, golden zucchini, and the tastiest homemade bread I’ve ever tasted. We loaded up on the goods, slurped on frozen lemonade, and then hit the road back to Florida. 

I’m out in Tennessee, and I ain’t coming home until my climbing project is sent

In November of 2009, I set out on my first climbing trip to a place called Little Rock City in Tennessee – which I now more often refer to by its proper name, Stone Fort. I had only been climbing for a handful of weeks, and don’t even remember if I sent any routes during that inaugural outdoor excursion, but I do remember one distinguished boulder, and the legendary route that sat on the featured rock:

Super Mario.

Over the course of half a dozen trips out to Stone Fort, spread across a handful of years, I have always been drawn to Super Mario. The first few climbing trips spent working the route were admittedly doomed for failure; I was hardly a V4 climber when I decided this route would become my conquest. My most recent visit to the area was during January, during a time when I hadn’t been climbing consistently for about six months. It was no surprise when I was yet again unable to make the send.

This time, I’m ready. (I think.) I’ve sent multiple V5s in rock gyms across the country, I’ve been training for the past few months for both sport climbing and bouldering, and despite a two week break from climbing to galavant all over Arizona, I feel strong. This is it. Super Mario’s reign of defeat is coming to an end, and I’m not coming home until I finish it.

Mind you, Niko has to be back for classes on Monday,
so this boulder problem better go down quickly. I’m just sayin’. 

While I enjoy my weekend of chalky, sweaty hands, torn up finger tips, aching muscles, a tricky knee-bar, and (hopefully) a victory slice of Lupi’s Pizza after sending Super Mario, check out this great video by Andrew Kornylak that gives insight to the beta and beauty of this classic Stone Fort climb.

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/7388463]

Send lots of positive, rock-crushin’ thoughts my way – I’m going to need as many good vibes as I can soak up!